Abisola Olusanya is a seasoned technocrat having worked for over a decade in the private sector and privileged to have served in both capacities as Special adviser to the Governor and Commissioner for Agriculture in Lagos State, Nigeria, under the leadership of the Governor, Mr. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu.
Background and Education
An indigene of Ikorodu, Abisola had her primary education at St. Margaret Nursery & Primary School from where she moved on to the prestigious Queens College, Yaba for her secondary education. In 2001, Abisola gained admission into the University of Lagos to study Architecture. Five years after the successful completion of her bachelor’s degree, she decided to further her education with an MBA in General Management at the Lagos Business School.
The Beginning of a Lifelong Fulfilling Career
In 2011, Abisola joined Olam International – one of the world’s largest Food and Agriculture Supply chain companies under its West African Management training program. Easily recognized for her stellar performance, participative execution and management style, and proficiency in establishing and managing operations, Abisola’s tenacity and grit earned her a senior management role within the span of two years. In her role as regional sales manager, she led sales, marketing, and supply chain operations for one of the largest business segments in Olam (Ghana) and led the team to delivery of the highest sales volumes, profit, and distribution expansion and product visibility. At Olam International, she worked with global stakeholders in the Food and Agriculture Supply chain businesses in Mozambique, Cameroun, Vietnam, Thailand, India, UAE, and Singapore.
The Food Expert Driving a Sustainable Agricultural Ecosystem
First appointed as Special Adviser to the Lagos State Governor on Agriculture in August 2019 due to her knowledge of the agricultural ecosystem and strategies on food security, the Governor of Lagos State entrusted the Lagos Rice Mill project to her, and she helped consolidate the Management and operations strategy that is being implemented at the Mill today. By November 2020, Abisola was made Commissioner for Agriculture– becoming the first female to take up the role in the Ministry in its 56 years of existence.
Abisola spearheaded the Lagos State five-year agriculture and food systems roadmap, part of which identified investment opportunities for private sector participants, particularly in the value chains where Lagos State has comparative advantages. The partnerships she proposed with the private sector has been projected to bring about increased food availability, job stimulation, wealth creation, standardized operations, as well as enhancement agriculture’s contribution to the State’s GDP.
An Advocate for Agriculture, Dedicated to Serving her State.
Recognized state-wide as an advocate for agriculture, Abisola joined forces with the vision of Mr. Governorto restore viability to the agricultural ecosystem and open the eyes of millions of Nigerians to the gold resource that Agriculture is. She continues to be honored for her unending outstanding performance in management and leadership and her work to implement the vision to advance Agriculture in Lagos State. Some of her achievements in the ministry of agriculture include:
• Led the development of the business operating model for Lagos Rice Mill and saw the project to 90% completion levels as of December 2021 from a start-off point of 15% in October 2019.
• Co-steered the Lagos State Covid-19 Emergency Food Response initiative in 2020, sourcing, repackaging, and re-distributing much needed food items to over 750,000 vulnerable/indigent families. Also provided framework support to National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in the receipt and distribution of relief items to vulnerable communities in Lagos
• Facilitated the resuscitation of the Lagos State Agricultural Training facility at Songhai and implemented the revamping to the Lagos Food Production Centre, an entrepreneurship- incubation ecosystem for the youth. Over 400 Agripreneurship trainees have utilized the facility in setting up businesses since 2021.
• Successfully led the launch of the Lagos State 5-year Agricultural and Food Systems roadmap – the first of its kind in Nigeria, tailored towards the private sector investment community, multilateral agencies, and Sovereign states (the international community) in a bid to showcase the massive opportunities/gaps in the food space in Lagos.
• Championed and continuously pushed the revolution of the Red Meat value chain transformation agenda – with the creation of a 750ha cattle feedlot, in tandem with the ban on overgrazing, and giving Lagosians a more steady and traceable supply of red meat. Also pushed the reforms in other parts of the chain particularly as regards animal identification and traceability management, processing (slaughtering), cold-chain logistics, and last-mile marketing.
• Created the Ministry of Agriculture’s dedicated website – www.lagosagric.com – a website/blog showcasing the Ministry’s activities and plans towards increasing food sufficiency in Lagos and giving the public an unhindered access to information as a tool for ease of business.
• Revamped the Lagos Agripreneurship Programme (a youth-women-centric training programme), changing it from a one-month classroom/ practical training in one location, to a 4-month long programme of one month training and 3-months internship with existing agri-businesses, giving the much-needed realities of the sector to potential agripreneurs. The evolution of the programme has also led to improved curriculum inculcating current agricultural technologies, and this has resulted in an increase in the number of graduates with a background in Agriculture participating in the programme. Over 2,400 youth beneficiaries have passed through the institution, with collaborations with agencies such as IITA, Mastercard Foundation for programs that have wider impact in the agricultural ecosystem for Nigerians.
• Re-jigged the Ministry’s annual agricultural empowerment programme, where farmers are given grants in the form of inputs and equipments to the “Agricultural Value Chains Enterprise Activation Programme”, where existing farmers and Lagos Agripreneurship programme Trainees that have scaled all requirements and shown the mettle are supported to becoming entrepreneurs utilizing the grants given, formed into cooperative societies, placed in a cluster for production/processing activities, and further supported with free accommodation and facility use for production, vast extension and book-keeping services. Over 45,891 agro-players have benefited from 2019 – May 2023.
• Evolved the annual Lagos Seafood festival to “The Lagos Food Festival”, pushing to the fore all food brackets and of various origins across the world – thereby increasing the gamut of interactions stakeholders across the food value chain have with investors, consumers and the public sector, and the heightened interplay between food and entertainment. Over 23,000 Lagosians attended the festival (2019-2023), with food vendors gaining marketing traction as a result of platform created by the Ministry.
• Championed and continuously pushed for the transformation of the food systems in Lagos, actualizing the 3-tier structure of market reorganization, by leading the development of the food systems policy document, and implementing the physical infrastructural development of the Central food systems & logistics hub, and the Middle-level markets. Successful completed the pilot middle-level hub at Mushin Idi-Oro, which will comfortably accommodate over 200 market women, 100 food trucks, store 300MT of dry/wet foods. Kicked-off the construction of the Food Logistics Park at Epe.
• Increased IGR contribution of the Ministry of Agriculture in its 56-year existence to the Lagos State pool, from a N250mn historical level to over N1.1bn in 2021 and N1.3bn in 2022.
• Institutionalized the establishment of financial institution partnership with the Lagos State fishermen community, getting over 8,000 youth fishermen into the banking system, and aiding their access to financial support. Over 700 of them were given grants in the form of fibre-glass boats with outboard motor-engines and linked with banks for the domiciling of their revenue to help in increasing fleet-size down the line.
• Created in collaboration with the private sector the first of its kind youth-centric catch-them-young platform for Agricultural engagement in the form of comic books (Eko School Agric) highlighting key projects in the State and teaching the kids in a manner that entertains and makes a lasting impression, and further enhanced the uptake of Agriculture as a career pathway with the Lagos Agric Scholars’ Programme. Launched 66 school projects, with the establishment of integrated SMART aquaponics, Poultry and hydroponics Units (SAP-Sys) in 6 of them as a part of the tech-enabled vision to attract the younger generation into agriculture.
• Launched the Eko-Agro Mechanization Scheme, an agricultural production enabling platform for farmers to aid land-clearing and preparation activities, pioneering a collaboration with tractor-on-the-go (T.O.G), a tractor-hailing application, that farmers can subscribe to and utilize with a view towards transparency in asset management, fees, and most importantly at an affordable price that puts less strain on value-chain actors.
These and many more initiatives have been spearheaded by Abisola. As a creative disruptor with a knack for industry-changing ideas, she is passionate to serve the people of Lagos and Nigerians at large towards the fulfilment of the greater Nigeria agenda.